This month (which is now last month, since this letter is grievously late), you started a new preschool. Last year you went to a program at Nana and Papa’s synagogue in Evanston, and you adored it. I was anxious about moving you, but we got into a preschool in our neighborhood, and it is closer and cheaper and more convenient in all sorts of important-to-mommy ways, so I decided to try it. When I dropped by the school to pick up your paperwork, you and Zella waltzed in like it was a friend’s house and just started playing. You found a cash register and a giant truck and some fish and a puzzle and learned your new teacher’s name, Miss Laura.
I never really worried about dropping you off, and it’s been as easy as I’d hoped. Last year you were in a “transition program” where parents stayed in the classroom for up to a month waiting for kids to be ready to be on their own. I was the first parent to leave, after just a week. This year, I walked you into the classroom on the very first day, and you trotted right over to the cash register and got right to work. You occasionally say, before we leave the house, that you don’t want to go to school, but when we arrive, you are almost always just really calm and happy to be there. You love to play with stuff, you don’t get too worried about what other kids are doing, and you love talking with adults. It’s a co-op preschool, so there are always two parents in the classroom. Perfect.
I can’t quite get a detailed accounting of what you do at school, but occasionally little things will slip out. The best/worst one was the week you started pointing a fist at me and snarling “STOMACH” in a really angry voice. Sometimes you would say “Stomach…Go away!” I had no idea what was happening or where that could have come from. But as I listened to you, I realized you were probably parroting something another kid had done. And probably he had said “stop it,” not “stomach.” My heart dropped. What terrible kid on the playground was aiming a fist at my son and telling him to stop it and go away! I must find this kid and make it right! But over a few days I realized that you were making it right for yourself. You took something that probably confused or hurt you a little and tried it out and worked it over until it lost its meaning. After a few days, I started saying “stomach!” to you as a joke. After a few more, you dropped it entirely.
This month you have a new ability to remember a whole day or two’s worth of plans, and to begin to experience anticipation. The other day you popped up from a nap and got your shoes on to go to the park almost without being asked. You never do that. Getting you out of the house after naps is always a disaster. Then I remembered that I’d told you that after we went to the park, I was going to let you have some special time with your new lady friend Mary Poppins and you had built up a vision of how your awesome afternoon was going to go and were making it happen. It was great.
Of course the flip side of anticipation is disappointment, and as I’ve mentioned before, you have that in spades. Once you get excited about a plan, your little heart is utterly broken if we need to change it. You are so like me in that way. I keep saying to you, “sometimes you plan something, but you have to do something different instead. It’s no biggie.” And I keep noticing that I’m also saying it to myself.
You are like me in so many other ways, too. You love routine and repetition. At museums and festivals, you cast around for something awesome, and once you find it, you would happily stay there for hours. At a recent street fair, it was slacklining, a kind of skateboarder tightrope walking. You would have held my hand and shimmied across that rope for hours.
Even more than that, you like knowing that you can rely on your bedrock favorites to always be there. The other day we had to return Momo’s DVD of My Neighbor Totoro which we had had since May. It’s your absolute favorite movie in the world. A few days later you burst into tears because you realized that it wasn’t in our house anymore. No matter how many times I promised to get a new copy, no matter how many weeks it had been since you last watched the movie. You just wanted to know it would always be there for you.
Luckily, Mary Poppins has been here to smooth over the pain of losing Totoro.
You’re my spoonful of sugar, baby.